Would-be Republican Senator Joe Heck hasn't had a great couple of weeks. His lead over former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Heck's rival for the Senate seat to be vacated by Democrat leader Harry Reid (described by the Weekly Standard as 'one of the meanest and shrewdest politicians in America'), has evaporated, and people have been calling the highly respected three-term congressman and military physician all sorts of names. A few weeks ago on The Interpreter, Nevada-based Norman Bell predicted Heck would be in trouble after withdrawing support for Donald Trump.
It's hard to believe Heck's late denunciation of Trump will win him many votes from undecided voters. But it might just cost him the votes of some true believers upset at his defection from the side of the true believers.
The entire bit of theatre would be comic if were not so important. Control of the Senate may well hang in the balance on this one seat. This is the chamber that could moderate Clinton's choice of a judge for the Supreme Court or encourage her to go further left with her selection. It's the body that ratifies treaties too.
Now Heck has the President of the United States poking fun at him. You can watch the video of Obama at a rally with the Democrat Senate candidate (start 27 mins in) which was reported thus in DailyKos:
"Now that Trump's poll numbers have cratered, he is saying I am not supporting him," Obama said of Heck. "Too late. You don't get credit for that."
He mocked Heck for backing family values throughout his political career, but continuing to back Trump earlier in the campaign when he made denigrating comments about women.
"What the Heck?" he asked, referring to the congressman.
The crowd responded by chanting, "Heck no!"
Nevada is one of the battleground states where polling suggests Hillary Clinton has consolidated her position in the presidential race, and is now ahead of Trump by 4.7 points, according to RealClearPolitics. Republicans are starting to panic, not just about a Trump defeat, which many (except the candidate) now concede is the most likely outcome, but also about the down-ballot contests which could cost the GOP control of the Senate, and, most fundamentally, the future of their party. Here's Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail writing on the likely ramifications as many Republicans, including Heck, backed away from their party's nominee for president:
Political parties prize unity above all. Breaking apart is their worst nightmare. Split, they become easy prey for their rivals. The picture of one of the world’s most venerable political formations – the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan – appearing to fracture just weeks before a critical election made for a startling sight. With an out-of-control leader in the saddle, the party that survived wars, depression and the Watergate scandal was galloping full tilt toward a cliff, with uncertain consequences for American democracy.
All of this means danger for the party, both on Nov. 8 and after. No matter how the election turns out, Republicans will emerge suffering from a profound identity crisis.
No wonder there is a note of desperation in this plea for unity from conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt this week who urged every GOP campaign fromTrump down to rookie would-be state legislators and the likes of Joe Heck in close-run Senate races, to 'stick with what works' ie a focus on rebuilding American military strength and repealing Obamacare. In closing, Hewitt, (who called for Trump to withdraw earlier this month) concludes: '...only the GOP can fix this disaster. Remind voters of that, every day, all day. And go tribe! Rally together!'
Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty